WASHINGTON – President Obama’s veto of the bipartisan Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act this week is extremely disappointing.
Once again, the president has decided to stand in the way of energy development and jobs rather than shift to a more responsible energy policy.
The implications of this decision are far reaching, especially in West Virginia where our energy resources, infrastructure and jobs are inextricably linked.
My first act in the Senate was co-sponsoring the Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act, which passed both chambers of Congress in a bipartisan vote.
In addition to enjoying support from members across the political spectrum, the majority of Americans — including the AFL-CIO and Laborers’ International Union of America — want the Keystone XL Pipeline built. Yet, despite the countless benefits and tens of thousands of American jobs associated with the pipeline’s construction, President Obama turned a blind eye on the will of the American people.
The Keystone XL pipeline is just the start of the infrastructure needed to grow energy jobs and fuel our economy. The pipeline would ship 830,000 barrels of oil per day, including 100,000 barrels of U.S. crude, almost all of which would stay in the U.S., replacing heavy crude currently being imported from politically unstable nations like Venezuela, according to a recent study by analysis firm IHS Inc. And, it would lay the groundwork for construction of additional pipelines around the country.
TransCanada, the company that first filed an application to build the Keystone XL pipeline more than six years ago, points out that without the pipeline, “U.S. refineries are forced to use other methods of transportation to get the oil they need for creating the product we all rely on every day.” As the recent train derailment in Fayette County illustrated, other methods of transport may not always be the safest option.
According to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, “pipelines are one of the safest and most cost-effective means to transport” natural gas and other fuels. The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research also reports that pipelines have “fewer spillage incidents and personal injuries than road and rail.” These statistics make a convincing case for Keystone XL and other pipelines to be built.
Unfortunately, President Obama used his veto pen to strike down this safe, common sense, pro-jobs project. As if the Obama administration’s regulations targeting coal-fired power plants, ground level ozone, and methane emissions from natural gas weren’t devastating enough, the president is continuing to hinder West Virginia’s vital energy industry.
Energy jobs make up the backbone of West Virginia’s economy. Although the coal industry’s downturn has been devastating in our state, we have a chance to create new opportunities for hard-working West Virginians through natural gas and infrastructure development. Pipelines, like Keystone XL, increase these opportunities and allow states with vast shale gas reserves to take advantage of the natural gas boom through the exportation of liquefied natural gas, or LNG.
In West Virginia, we are blessed to have huge shale gas reserves, and we are still discovering just how massive these reserves are. According to a December 2014 Department of Energy report on oil and gas reserves in the United States:
· In 2013, West Virginia surpassed Oklahoma to become the third largest shale gas reserves state.
· In 2013, West Virginia had the 2nd largest discovery of natural gas reserves.
· Seventy percent of the total U.S. increase in proven natural gas reserves in 2013 came from the West Virginia and Pennsylvania Marcellus shale reserves.
We have more than enough natural gas to export LNG and power an industrial renaissance in West Virginia. Supplying LNG to our international allies decreases their dependence on often hostile regimes in the Middle East and Russia, and as a result, bolsters our national security. Plus it is a huge economic boost to our state and our country.
Later this month, the State Department is expected to release its final report on the economic and environmental impact of the Keystone XL pipeline. Despite his veto of Congress’ bipartisan Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act, the president will have the chance to reconsider this needed project.
If the president is serious about standing up for America’s middle-class families and jobs, I urge him to reverse course, approve this critical, bipartisan project and get behind a more responsible energy policy. If not, West Virginians will have a clear view of who is standing in the way of progress for our state and our nation.
Capito (R-W.Va.) is a member of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources and chairs the Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.